The Instant Gardener Series 1 Episode 2

The Instant Gardener Series 1  Episode 2

The Instant Gardener is Danny Clarke Garden Designer, who with the help of Helen Skelton and the Team, show us how to transform a problem garden, on a budget in just 1 day.

Todays programme is from Barnsley, Yorkshire  and Helen goes to meet the homeowners, Claire and Richard, who are metal health workers and their 3 cats who all live in a new build house.

The couple have been married for 2 years and have been going through stressful and heart breaking IVF treatment to have a baby.

Claire and Richard

They are taking a break from the treatment and want to spend time with friends and family and enjoying their home and garden.

The Garden
The plot sweeps up from the back to door a steep slope at the top of the garden.

Garden before
Garden before

There is an unkept, weed ridden lawn and no other planting in the garden other than 1 Acer.

There is a small patio by the back of the house and a small child size playhouse for the cats.

Danny Clarke and Helen Skelton

Helen has the shopping list from Danny and her, Claire and Richard head off out for the day.

Danny's Design
This certainly is a design challenge and the couple want a garden to entertain in but also for them to relax in with the wood burner and that is easy to maintain. 

Danny plan is to give them a new circular patio in the middle of the garden, cutting into the slope. The bank will be timber edged and the patio filled with Slate.

Dannys plan

The Prairie planting scheme will love the sunny conditions in the garden.

The existing tree will be kept and another 2 trees added to give it more height and symmetry.

A modern design for this young modern couple all completed in just 10 hours.

A Work in Progress
Danny is joined by his Team of AJ AKA Euan AJ Rose, the building expert and Lou AKA Louise Hampden, the Horticulture expert.



Helping him also today are 2 of the couples friends Claire and Gavin who work with the couple and its their first time doing a garden project.

Claire and Gavin

The first job is to mark out the circular patio which they do by using a pole with string tied to it and marker paint.

Gavin cuts the long grass to make the job of cutting out the turf a bit easier.

2 tonnes of earth will need to be moved to create the patio area, that is a lot of work, starting with lifting the turf.

They have hired a skip which costs £160-£180 a day and then barrow all the earth into it.

Some digging lessons are needed from Danny for Claire and Gavin who are new to this kind of work.

Danny dug up a Lob Worm and also spots worm casts which means the garden is happy and healthy.

Claire and Gavin give the cat playhouse a much needed coat of paint.

Claire tells Danny how tough its been for their friends after having 2 IVF attempts fail over the last year.

The couple had to change their lifestyle so socialising with family was not something they have done much of over the last year, whilst concentrating their efforts on the IVF.

The next job is a trench for the retaining walls which is made out of timber posts which will be then sunk, so a third, is underground.

Unfortunately they hit rock when digging hopefully it is just some builders rubble and not solid rock!

This is really slowing them down and it seems an old school was demolished and just covered in soil to make the slopes!

Danny is digging holes for the trees into the bank, he is making a shelf to plant them on so they wont blow over in the wind and also to help with watering.

He is planting a Sorbus Aucuparia or commonly known as Rowan or Mountain Ash which will grow to 4 metres tall with white flowers and then berries.

AJ cuts the poles to different lengths as they will slope down in size at the front.

Aluminium lawn edging

To save time because of the problems they have had with the slope, Danny will edge the front of the patio with Aluminium lawn edging instead of wooden poles.

AJ is very pleased with that idea, 'loving it'!


Danny starts work on the Aluminium edges as AJ starts cementing the posts to form the retaining wall.

Danny started work on the Prairie planting bed. He is using grasses that vary in height, colour and texture to create the look.

He has chosen Miscanthus Sinensis which grows to over 1 meter, also Carex Testaca or Orange New Zealand Sedge and within the grasses, the orange flowered Geum.

Yarrow with its tall yellow heads will also bob in the wind with the grasses.


With the patio nearly complete its time to cover the area with Slate, which at 3 inches thick will not need a weed suppressant membrane underneath.

AJ shows us his slate flattening dance, quickly joined by Danny!

work in progress

Helen arrives with the items  from the shopping list.

Danny pleased with the shopping and shows Helen how the garden transformation is going.

Helen loves the fun but grown up garden and seating area.

the new additional are quickly planted and the finishing touches done to the garden.

AJ puts the door back on the cat playhouse and Gavin puts the new funky chairs on the slate patio.

Garden visit and Shopping
Helen takes Richard a Claire to visit a local sloped garden to show them what can be done.

The tranquil garden has a stunning water feature and long grasses as well as several circular seating areas.

Claire likes the grasses and so will the cats but is not so keen on the pond type water feature.

visited garden

They do like the circular seating area!  The Alliums gets their approval especially as low maintenance.

The Garden is designed by Lee Bestall using Feng Shui as its inspiration and they meet with him in the garden.

Lee Bestall garden designer

The idea is to connect the garden with the countryside beyond and has had to deal with varying levels making interlocking circles.

Richards mum has given them crystals and some ideas from Feng Shui but they haven't had much experience of it.

Having positive energy in the garden is something the couple would really like to have given what they have been going through.

visited garden

The garden has been zoned into different areas, for eating, sitting and for the fire pit.

The trio arrive at the Garden Centre which although they have visited one, Claire finds all the plant choice intimidating.

shopping list

On Danny lists are 3 good sized Festuca Glauca 'Blue Pescue' and Stipa Gigantea 'Golden Oats'.

They do some off list, shopping and Richard wants the 'Bear Grylls' of plants that will survive and they soon spot the Alliums they saw early and choose them.

Emma Horsfield the owner of the Garden Centre gives them a hand finding their plants from the shopping list.

Helen Skelton and Claire and Richard

She tells them they are both grasses and grow in sunny spots and need little maintenance or watering.

Stipa Gigantea grows tall with feathery plumes and the Festuca Glauca is a dwarf blue grass with delicate flowers.

These are quickly added to the trolley and Helen takes them back to see the progress.

What the garden means to them
The couple met at work in a Mental Health Unit, they then started dating and have been together 4 years, married for 2 years. 

Their jobs can be stressful and dangerous but is also rewarding and they work different 12 hour shifts.

The IVF treatment has been going on  for a year and on the second attempt although she conceived the baby was lost.

They are having a break from the treatment and the emotional journey.


The garden would be a space where they could entertain family and friends as a thank you for their support through their difficult time.

Claire nominated Richard for this garden makeover to thank him and because he hasn't had the support network as much as her through all this

The Grand Reveal
Richard and Claire here is your new garden

Helen Skelton and Claire and Richard

'oh my god' 'wow' 'you have painted it' 'that looks so much better' 'that is amazing thank you so much'. 

Claire as she nominated Richard asks him if its good enough 'definitely' he replies

'we feel proud we can bring people round now'. 'It looks a lot bigger' 'that is amazing I'm so proud' 'gobsmacked' 'cant believe you done that in the time limit you had'. 

They are both so happy with the garden and cant wait to entertain or sit out on a cold night with the log burner going.

The garden is now a haven for the couple to relax and entertain in.

Finished garden

The circular blue slate patio with its comfy seating to socialise or relax together in with their beloved firepit.

Finished garden

The new trees to add height and symmetry.

Finished garden

The Prairie planting with easy maintenance planting and grasses.

Finished garden

The cat palace once a derelict playhouse has been transformed.

Danny Clarke and Helen Skelton

They sit down to take it all in as Helen tells Danny what a great job he has done.

Their friends arrive and lots of hugs and tears as they start their next chapter in their new garden.

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